Galaga[a] is a 1981 fixed shooter arcade game developed and published by Namco. In North America, it was released by Midway Manufacturing. It is the sequel to Galaxian (1979), Namco's first major video game hit in arcades. Controlling a starship, the player is tasked with destroying the Galaga forces in each stage while avoiding enemies and projectiles. Some enemies can capture a player's ship via a tractor beam, which can be rescued to transform the player into a “dual fighter” with additional firepower.
|Platform(s)||Arcade, SG-1000, MSX, Nintendo Entertainment System, Atari 7800, Game Boy, mobile phone, Xbox 360, Roku, iOS, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Windows|
|Mode(s)||Single-player, multiplayer (alternating)|
|Arcade system||Namco Galaga|
Shigeru Yokoyama led development with a small team. Initial planning took about two months to finish. Originally developed for the Namco Galaxian arcade board, it was instead shifted to a new system as suggested by Namco's Research and Development division. Inspiration for the dual fighter mechanic was taken from a film that Yokoyama had seen prior to development, where a ship was captured using a large circular beam. The project became immensely popular around the company, with Namco's president Masaya Nakamura even taking interest.
Although early location tests were unsuccessful, Galaga received critical acclaim and went on to become one of the most successful arcade games, routinely appearing on Japanese and American arcade charts through 1987. It is widely regarded as a classic of the golden age of arcade video games and one of the greatest video games of all time. Critics applauded its gameplay, innovation, addictive nature and improvements made over its predecessor. Several home ports were released for a multitude of platforms, including the MSX, Atari 7800 and Nintendo Entertainment System, alongside releases on digital distribution platforms such as Xbox Live Arcade. Galaga is also included in many Namco compilations. It was followed by a sequel in 1984, Gaplus.
Galaga is a fixed shooter. The player mans a lone starfighter at the bottom of the screen, which must prevent the Galaga forces from destroying all of mankind. The objective of each stage is to defeat all of the Galaga aliens, which will fly into formation from the top and sides of the screen. Similar to Galaxian, aliens will dive towards the player while shooting down projectiles; colliding with either projectiles or aliens will result in a life being lost.
Atop the enemy formation are four large aliens known as the "Boss Galaga", which take two shots to destroy. These aliens can use a tractor beam to capture the player's ship, returning with it to the top of the formation and costing the player a life. Should additional lives remain, the player has an opportunity to shoot down the Boss Galaga holding the captured ship. Shooting it down as it dives towards the player will result in the captured ship being rescued, and it will join the player's ship, transforming it into a "dual-fighter" with additional firepower and a larger hitbox. However, destroying a Boss Galaga with a captured ship while it is in formation will instead cause the fighter to turn against the player and act as an alien. The ship will return in a later level as part of the formation.
Some enemies can morph into new enemy types with different attack patterns, with one even taking the form of the Galaxian Flagship. Stages are indicated by emblems located at the bottom-right of the screen. Enemies become more aggressive as the game progresses, increasing their number of projectiles and diving down at a faster rate. The third stage and every fourth thereafter is a bonus stage, where the aliens fly in a preset formation without firing at the player.
Galaga was created by Japanese developer Shigeru Yokoyama, a long-time veteran of Namco. Namco's first big hit in arcades was Galaxian (1979), credited as one of the first video games to use RGB color graphics; the game's success led Namco to produce a large number of Namco Galaxian arcade boards to keep up with demand. By the early 1980s the game was becoming harder to sell, so to help clear out inventory, Yokoyama was tasked with creating two new games that could run on the Namco Galaxian board. The first of these was King & Balloon (1980), a fixed shooter that is cited as the first video game to incorporate speech. The second game was instead made for newer hardware as suggested by Namco's Research & Development division. This new arcade board was named the Namco Galaga, and used in games including Bosconian (1981) and Dig Dug (1982). Although Yokoyama was not given explicit instructions to make a shooting game, management expressed desire for him to make a game similar to Galaxian. Initial planning for the project took two months.
The idea for the dual fighter stemmed from Yokoyama wanting to create enemies with different attack styles. The tractor beam emitted by the Boss Galaga was inspired by a film in which a character's ship was captured by a circling laser. Yokoyama incorporated this idea into Galaga, whereby an enemy could capture the player's ship with a beam and the ship would need to be rescued. Originally, rescuing a captured ship would award the player an extra life, but this was soon changed to having it fight alongside the player. This idea proved to be a problem at first; due to hardware limitations, the game could only display a limited number of sprites, resulting in the dual-fighter being unable to shoot any more missiles. As a workaround, Yokoyama made a 16x16 sprite for the ship and a 16x16 sprite for the bullets, reducing the total sprite count by two.
Inspired by the intermissions in Pac-Man (1980) and bonus stages in Rally-X (1980), Yokoyama added a special bonus level. While planning, lead programmer Tetsu Ogawa informed him of a bug whereby enemies would simply fly off the screen instead of moving into formation. Ogawa expressed interest in incorporating the idea into the game, leading to the inclusion of the Challenging Stages. Enemies originally flew in one type of pattern, with more being added to increase replay value. Graphic designer Hiroshi Ono designed many of the sprites, including the player's ship and the Boss Galaga alien.
Prior to location testing, the team focused on designing the instruction card, a sheet of paper that showed how the game was played. The text was done by the planners, while the actual design was handled by a graphic artist. The card originally showed the control layout and the basics of the game, which was stripped early on for being too boring. Yokoyama suggested that the card instead show off the dual fighter mechanic, as a means to draw in players. The team kept bringing in designs to Namco president Masaya Nakamura, who continued to reject them until he ordered the team to simply make it in front of him.
The team was allowed to set their own deadlines, due to Namco's then-laidback corporate structure. Feedback on the project was given by Nakamura and other employees, including Pac-Man creator Toru Iwatani. Despite the game's immense popularity around the company, early location tests failed to meet expectations due to players being able to progress a long way with only one coin, thus generating low income. Although Yokoyama stated that the game's popularity could still generate income, Namco executives instructed the team to increase the difficulty level. Galaga was released in Japan in September 1981. It was released in North America by Midway Games in October of that year.
Sega-Galaga, the first home conversion of Galaga, was published by Sega for the SG-1000 in 1983. An MSX version followed a year later in 1984. A conversion for the Family Computer was released in 1985 for Japan, which was later released internationally by Bandai for the Nintendo Entertainment System, subtitled Demons of Death in North America. Atari, Inc. published an Atari 7800 version as one of the console's thirteen launch games. In Europe, Aardvark Software released an unofficial port for the BBC Micro and Acorn Electron called Zalaga in 1983 which was described by Computer and Video Games as "true to the arcade original".
Namco published a Game Boy version in Japan in 1995, Galaxian & Galaga, bundled with Galaxian. Nintendo published the game outside Japan under the Arcade Classic brand. Two mobile phone versions were released, both confined to Japan; the first was for i-Mode in 2001, and the second for EZweb in 2006. The original arcade version was released for the Xbox Live Arcade service in 2006, featuring online leaderboards and achievements. The NES release was ported to the Wii Virtual Console in 2007, followed by the arcade version in 2009. A Roku port was published in 2011. In 2013, the NES version was released on both the 3DS and Wii U Virtual Console. Galaga was one of the four games released under the Arcade Game Series brand, which was published for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Microsoft Windows in 2016.
Galaga was included in Namco compilations including Namco Museum Vol. 1 (1995), Namco Museum 64 (1996), Namco Museum 50th Anniversary (2005), Namco Museum Virtual Arcade (2008), Namco Museum Essentials (2009), and Namco Museum Megamix (2010). The 2010 Wii game Pac-Man Party and its 2011 Nintendo 3DS version include Galaga as an extra, alongside the arcade versions of Dig Dug and Pac-Man. In celebration of the game's 30th anniversary in 2011, a high-definition remake was released for iOS devices as part of Galaga 30th Collection, which also included remakes of Galaxian, Gaplus and Galaga '88. Alongside the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 sequel Galaga Legions, it was ported to the Nintendo 3DS in 2011 as part of Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions. The original version was also added to the iOS Namco Arcade compilation in 2012. The NES release is one of 30 games included in the NES Classic Edition.
Galaga was met with acclaim, with many applauding the addictive nature, gameplay structure, innovation and improvements over its predecessor, and was a popular game during the golden age of arcade video games. In Japan, it was the sixth highest-grossing arcade game of 1981, then the third highest-grossing arcade game of 1982, and then the tenth highest-grossing table arcade cabinet during the first half of 1986. In North America, it regularly appeared on the monthly sales chart of RePlay magazine from April 1980 to April 1987, being only outdone by Sega's Monaco GP (1979). Galaga was among the top ten highest-grossing arcade games of 1983 in the United States.
Computer + Video Games praised the challenge and improvements made over Galaxian, while Arcade Express selected it as an "Honorable Mention" in their 1983 arcade awards. Japanese publication Amusement Life said that the sense of thrill and fast-paced action made Galaga a "must play", while also praising its unique dual-fighter mechanic and colorful graphics. Vidiot magazine listed it as the seventh best arcade game of 1983, saying that its gameplay variety, dual-fighter mechanic and bonus stages made it stick out from the crowd.
In a 1998 retrospective review, AllGame said the strategy stood out amongst other games of its type, describing the gameplay as "perfectly balanced shooting action." Reviewing the NES home version, GameSpy called Galaga a "must play for arcade freaks", praising the port's accurate representation of the arcade version in terms of its graphics, sound effects and gameplay. IGN also praised the NES port's element of strategy within the dual-fighter mechanic and addictive gameplay. GameSpot, in their review for the Xbox 360 release, stated the gameplay was "as tricky as it ever was", praising the inclusion of online leaderboards and for being a faithful arcade conversion. Eurogamer agreed, citing that the leaderboards add to addictiveness.
Ports of Galaga received praise for their faithfulness to the arcade original. Nintendo Life praised the 3DS Virtual Console port of the NES version for remaining accurate to the original, stating that it "aged surprisingly well" and was worth revisiting. Games magazine praised the improvements over games such as Space Invaders and Galaxian, commenting that Galaga still holds up years later. Joystick magazine praised the NES version's accurate portrayal of the arcade original, notably in its graphics and gameplay structure. Famicom Tsūshin commended the Game Boy version's faithful conversion alongside its support for the Super Game Boy peripheral, while Electric Playground stated that it should " be near the top of your Game Boy's next purchase list". Some publications expressed disappointment towards home releases for lacking extra features. GameSpot disliked the lack of online multiplayer in the Xbox 360 release, as well as the lack of an updated graphics setting, saying that the port was "awfully bare bones" compared to other XBLA releases. Eurogamer expressed distaste towards the Xbox 360 port's high price point, as well as the achievements for being "insultingly easy" to obtain. Eurogamer also agreed with GameSpot in the lack of online multiplayer.
Galaga has been listed by numerous publications among the greatest video games of all time. Flux magazine ranked it at #57 on their "Top 100 Video Games" in 1995, while Game Informer listed it at #23 in their "Top 200 Games of All Time" in 2010. Next Generation ranked it at #96 in their "Top 100 Games of All Time" for its innovation to shoot 'em up games as a whole, and at #17 in their "Top 50 Games of All Time". Game Informer labeled it the 19th greatest video game ever made in 2001, calling it the best game of the fixed-shooter genre. Electronic Gaming Monthly listed it at #20 in their "100 Best Games of All Time" in 1997 and "Top 100 Games of All Time" in 2001, and as #28 in their "Greatest 200 Videogames of Their Time" in 2006. GameFAQs users voted it the 15th greatest game ever made in 2004 and the 10th in 2009. GameSpy staff voted it the eighth best arcade game of all time in 2011. It was ranked at #93 in IGN's "Top 100 Games of All Time" for its addictive gameplay and long-standing appeal. The Killer List of Videogames listed it as #27 in their "Top 100 Video Games" list, as well as the 4th most collected arcade game and 2nd most popular on their website. Electronic Gaming Monthly listed Ms. Pac-Man/Galaga - Class of 1981 as the second best arcade game of all time for its inclusion of both games.
Shortly after the game's release, Namco produced miniature Galaga cabinets for buses and airplanes, housed in small 17-inch CRT monitors. In 2000, Namco released an arcade cabinet to celebrate the game's 20th anniversary, which was bundled with Ms. Pac-Man and titled Ms. Pac-Man / Galaga - Class of 1981. A similar cabinet was released in 2005 that also included the original Pac-Man, made to celebrate the latter's 25th anniversary. Galaga is also included in both Pac-Man’s Arcade Party (2010) and Pac-Man’s Pixel Bash (2019).
Galaga has made cameo appearances in films including WarGames (1983), The Karate Kid (1984), Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987), The Avengers (2012), and Pixels (2015). A submarine named after the game appears throughout the ABC television series Lost. Hallmark Cards released a Galaga arcade cabinet ornament in 2009, which played sound effects from the game. In 2019, researchers at North Carolina State University named an extinct species of shark Galagadon nordquistae, due to the shark's teeth bearing a resemblance to the Galaga aliens. Galaga is also the subject of several high score-based tournaments; as of 2020, the world record is held by Jordan Dorrington with a score of 20,980,450 points.
Galaga was used as a loading screen minigame in the PlayStation version of Tekken. As a tie-in with the anime series Space Dandy, an iOS remake, Space Galaga, was released in 2015, featuring characters and starships from Space Dandy intermixed with Galaga gameplay. A similar crossover game, Galaga: Tekken Edition, was released the same year, replacing enemies with characters from the Tekken franchise. A Galaga-themed costume is also available as downloadable-content in LittleBigPlanet 3. The Boss Galaga appears as an item in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U and its followup Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, where it can capture an opponent and carry them off the screen. Ultimate also features a remix of the Galaga soundtrack. An animated television adaptation, Galaga Chronicles, is confirmed to be in development.
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